Sherman, enjoying the sunset at St. Andrews, New Brunswick. Photo taken March 24, 2011.
Where are Kevin and Ruth right now? Cabri Regional Park, Saskatchewan, Canada.

Where are they going next? We're here at the park until late September!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Avoid the Marrakesh street food market!

Still getting caught up on our blog posts after our three day desert tour. So this post details our day on Thursday the 6th.

We stayed in the room all morning, getting caught up on internet and sorting through photos. You have to take a down day every now and again, and we were certainly due for one. But, we had to get to the train station to buy our tickets for Friday so we were going to have to get out and do that.

Besides, we just can't sit around doing nothing!

Here's our room. Not bad, but it's in a very old riad and the family who lives here make a lot of noise. People coming and going all the time, and children coughing and crying. Not bad for a last minute decision, and at least the girl we deal with is always smiling and really pleasant. But not great. The plumbing backed up the first night and caused an awful smell in the bathroom. She moved us to a different room for the second night.



We were staying inside the medina (the old central part of the city) but close to one of the gates. So it was only a few steps outside to the modern part of the city where it seems like you're instantly going from the Arabian nights to the big city metropolis. Marrakech is truly a city of contrasts.

It was a 2 km (1.6 mile) walk to the train station.

Modern Marrakech.

Ruth, and the modern train station.

Very nice train station, which opened it's doors in 2008. Marrakesh also has a new and very modern airport terminal.

And the new part of the city also has all of the American franchises...McDonalds, KFC, etc.

Mural, across from the train station. The building on the right is the theater.

We went in and bought our tickets. We decided to go to Rabat, the capital city of Morocco. It's located on the Atlantic coast, about an hour north of Casablanca. For some reason it's not a popular tourist destination, and yet there seems to be enough worth seeing. Casablanca sounds very romantic, but we hear it's not. It's just a big dirty industrial city. So we're going to stay on the train and go right though Casablanca on our way to Rabat.

We bought second class tickets at 127 dirhams ($17.75 CAD, $$13.20 USD) each. There are no seat assignments in second class. It's first come first served, and you might end up standing. We'll have to arrive early! Reserved seating in first class would have been only about 30% more, but we weren't sure we could justify the difference.

We left the station and headed through to the resort area where there is a big shopping mall and a Carrefour grocery store. We wanted to pick up a bunch of snacks that we could eat on the train for the five hour journey.

The resorts are popular with many tourists coming from France.

Lots of parks and  green space along this road.

We picked up our supplies at the Carrefour, and then continued on a circular route back to the old town. Ruth wanted to see one of the original entrance gates to the medina.

Also, we tried to go into the expensive La Mamounia Hotel. This is where Winston Churchill liked to spend his time while in Morocco. Unfortunately, we were told we couldn't enter while wearing sandals! Strange. Do the rich people not wear sandals?

Bab Agnaou Gate, built in the 12th century.

We  stopped for a ginger juice.

Ginger Juice menu. 10 dirhams is just over $1 USD.

Back at the room, we relaxed for a couple of hours and then decided to go out for something to eat. We had not yet eaten at the main street food market in the central square. It's a popular spot for both tourists and locals alike. But, it was a bit of a walk so if we saw something on the way there we would stop.

But we didn't see anything suitable. Soon, we were in the big, very busy Jemaa el-Fnaa square. It's such a circus. You really can't describe it... it's something you have to see for yourself.

As we approached the food vendors, each stall have touts. People who do and say whatever they can to entice you to eat at their particular stand. It's almost a little intimidating, and difficult to decide which stall might be better than the next. We did find the the prices at the first stalls were more expensive than the ones as you got further in.

We quickly tired of trying to make our way through, and accepted one guy's persistent offer to sit.

This smile would soon be gone.

Notice the guy on the right? The locals do not like being included in our pictures! 
Nothing was said, but I did put the camera away after that.

The waiter came over and he was very impatient. Almost like he was trying to rush us to order. He wasn't the friendliest type, and we really should have left right then. But we didn't. We ordered a chicken tagine for 40 dirhams, which was a reasonable price. And a mixed meat brochette for 70 dirhams, which was a little pricey for street food, but we figured we'd treat ourselves. And a mixed salad for 10 dirhams, which was cheap, but their mixed salads are often just lettuce, onion, and tomato. Heavy on the tomato. Oh, and a bottle of water for 10 dirhams which is a little on the high side, but not bad. So our total bill should have been 130 dirhams ($18.20 CAD, $13.50 USD).

As he finished scribbling the order, I repeated it to him to be sure he got it right. It all happened very fast, and at the end he said what I understood to be "do you want some peppers and vegetables with your tagine?". I figured that they usually come that way anyhow, so I said yes.

They then brought bread, and Ruth quickly said no, and sent it back.

They then brought olives, and some kid of sauce, and again we said no, and they took it back.

Our meals finally arrived. The tagine looked fine, and the brochette looked fine, but we had only ordered one mixed salad. Instead, we had two plates of something else. But, it was mostly vegetables, so I figured this was the mixed salad split onto two plates? Ruth thought we should say something, but for whatever reason I said that maybe it's the mixed salad? 

We ate.


The bottle of water never showed up, and we never saw our waiter again for the rest of the meal. When it came time to pay the bill, I flagged down another guy and out of nowhere, our waiter appeared.

He scribbled some numbers down on a plain piece of paper, and the total came to 200 dirhams ($28 CAD, $21 USD).

What??

We started arguing, and he immediately got aggressive. It was not a good scene. Ruth was upset, and when she started arguing with him it just made him more angry. I think there were some cultural problems going on here and that Moroccan guy just didn't want anything to do with a tourist woman. I think he said some swear words in Arabic! And people were starting to stare. Another guy came over and tried to smooth things over. By this time, Ruth had stormed away in tears. 

I argued some more, but ended up handing over the 200 dirham. It simply wasn't worth it.

After the fact, we did some research on this Marrakech street food market. It seems that almost every second person gets ripped off at this place. There are about 100 food stalls, and there are lots of bad reviews on tripadvisor about people who went through the exact same thing we did. Normally, we do check tripadvisor reviews in advance, but the street market was so busy, and with so many locals and tourists alike that we figured it must be a good deal.

Avoid the Marrakesh street food market! You will get a better meal at a cheaper price at a restaurant. By the way, those olives and bread they tried to bring? They also are way overpriced and will be added to your order whether you asked for them or not!

What a circus. Have I said that already??

Marrakesh is a very interesting place to visit. We consider ourselves to be pretty savvy travelers, but I think that it is not a matter of if you will get ripped off...it's a matter of when, and by how much! From a violence perspective, we still think it's totally safe. Even the restaurant waiter, I don't think there would have been any physical violence...just lots of loud shouting and angry gesturing. But it all takes a toll on you, and while Marrakesh is totally worth visiting, it's also a very hard city to take everything in.

Obviously if you have a full time guide with you, you are less likely to encounter these types of situations. However, then you are paying your guide, aren't you? So you pay one way or the other. 

Definitely a stressful and unenjoyable meal out. But, we will look back at it and laugh. Life goes on.

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And in Canada...



19 comments:

  1. Kevin, you did the right thing and just got the hell out of the place. Believe me, if there were a lot of locals eating in that place, they have seen this guy hollering and carrying on before in his efforts to scam tourists. If you had a lot of time, you could have stood your ground which he would not have expected. However, it would have been your word against his word if the cops were called. You've got better things to do with your time. It was nice that one fellow (I assume a local) stepped up to the plate (no pun intended!) to help.

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    1. It's not really that Kevin did the right thing, there really wasn't any other option! We had lots of time but it didn't matter because there was no way that we were going to change the outcome even if we stood our ground, the price wasn't going to change. Nobody stepped in to help us, that fellow was the other guy's boss and all he did was write down the amount that we had to pay. Our mistake was not questioning those two vegetable dishes as soon as they brought them out. Right then and there we should have sent them back and made them bring out the salad. Oh well, lesson learned!

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  2. Definitely a pricey meal. Most of us do not like confrontation . I guess the law of averages say you will hit a few bad spots. Hopefully its a long time ( as in never gain ) . Keep on travelling we enjoy your stories. :)

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    1. Yep, a very pricey meal! Good thing it tasted ok. :-)

      You are totally right, the law of averages work more in our favour than against us, so hopefully it won't happen again for a very long time.

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  3. What a nightmare I feel sorry for Ruth having to leave in tears. Always hard when there is a language barrier better to eat in restaurants or make your own. Hope all goes well the rest of your journey!

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    1. Well maybe not a nightmare but still not a fun thing to have to deal with. Don't feel sorry for me, I am fine now, my problem is that I tend to be a little over sensitive sometimes and this was one of those times. I am laughing about it now. Yes, I think the language issue played into the scenario plus the fact that once they have you sitting down they are rushing you a bit and as he walked away he asked us something about peppers that we didn't totally hear and we just said sure. Good thing that we made them take away the bread and the olives when they were brought to the table or that would have made the bill even higher. I am sure the rest of the trip will be fine. We are on our toes now, and will question everything! :-)

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  4. It's too bad people behave the way they do. I probably would have asked my host where is a good place to eat and inquire about the food market. I usually get a good recommendation. The food looked good and in a restaurant it might have cost more for the amount of food. I'm surprised the guy who flagged you down to sit didn't assist in sorting out the bill and the attitude of waiter.

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    1. We had actually mentioned it to both the hosts that we had in Marrakesh, the first one Marco was the best at telling us where to eat but unfortunately he never mentioned about the tactics in the food stalls. I wish we could have found that very first restaurant that he took us to on our first night. We originally were looking for it but couldn't remember exactly where it was. Our second host would have preferred to have us eat at her house, looking back maybe e should have. Our first night there we had a good meal for a decent price but we wanted to try the street food stalls in the square.

      The food was decent and it looks like it was a lot in the picture but is wasn't as big in real life as it appears in the photo. The guy who flagged us down wouldn't have helped, his only job is to get you in there!

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  5. here you go again! :) for the love of god please spend the extra $3.90USD - 4 BUCKS!!!! and get a first class ticket. that is less than $1 per hour to have a first class experince! what do you expect will happen in 2nd class. you will stand. you will be sold crap you dont want. the bathrooms will be terrible. 5 hours of hell, or maybe not. but you can avoid all of that for $4 and you choose not to?? cmon guys live a little I mean really its $4!!!! send me your address and I'll drop the $8 my treat!!! or start a patreon page and I'll be the first to subscribe. want you guys to arrive happy and rested in Rabat soo you can take it all in not be hassled/robbed/starved to death on the way there! Enshallah (god willing).

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    1. We learned our lesson X, today we booked two tickets to Tangier, 1st class! :-) Our problem is that we like to experience life with the locals and most locals take 2nd class. More on the story in the next blog post, just a hint, we didn't stand! ;-)

      Lol, you are funny, glad we haven't scared you off!

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    2. I agree $11 per person for a good meal...I thought it was reasonable by American standards...but what do I know, I don't travel out of country much. Love X's comment...live a little.

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    3. Love you guys! cant' wait to read the post.

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    4. Rita, We have been paying $11USD for the both of us for a better meal than what this one was. American standards and the standards here are quite different!

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  6. The food did look yummy though. Yes go first class. Love your blog.

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    1. The food wasn't bad but definitely not worth the 200 dirhams! We are going 1st class on our next train ride but it is only because it is reserved seating, we will explain more about it, in our post today.

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    2. Interesting you sit at the gate all day to make sure people pay what 5.00 just to get in the park. But think everyone else in the world should take what you offer. Just depends on what side of the bill one is on I suppose. And you have no problems spending hundreds a year on booze as long as it doesn't go to your own country. Sorry I usually try to be positive but I think I failed on this post.

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    3. Yes, everyone has their own priorities. Not sure I understand your comments. What does this have to do with our job at the park? And everyone else in the world should take what we offer? I'm not following you at all...

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  7. Frequent travellers to Morocco/Tunisia etc usually shows a €20 or €10 and say food for 2. Don't give them the money as you won't get anything in return, No good complaining as the police will be on their side. I have no wish to visit African countries. Put it behind you and enjoy the rest of your holiday. x

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    1. We won't buy any food anywhere here in Morocco that would be priced in Euros to start with, and even if they give the price in dirhams we would want to see first what we will be getting. You are right it is no good to go complaining to the police, I am sure they have heard may stories about the same thing already. It is a buyer beware society at times here.

      It's too bad though that you don't have a wish to visit any African country because we think they are very interesting and we have had wonderful experiences in Africa. Morocco is now our 4th country in Africa and we would jump at the chance to visit any of the other countries here. We love all the different cultures and scenery, they are all so diverse.

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